The new wave of cinema, especially in the Hindi Film Industry, has married parallel to commercial, and a whole lot of audience now wants to consume content-based films. But deep down in our hearts, once in a while, we do crave the melodrama that Bollywood created in abundance once. And Karan Johar has been a critical person in supplying that to the masses till a certain point.
We all witnessed and cheered when Karan Johar made Anjali grow her hair long so Rahul could instantly fall in love with her. We were also there when he realised that women have an equal say in life, and made the same Kajol play Mandira in My Name Is Khan, a woman with the authority of her life without the need of a man to dictate it. Criticise as much as you want, but Karan has let the women in his imagination evolve with times, and has been bold enough to address that through his films. He was learning on the sets, and that is the best part.
He may be the mainstream, the commercial or the father of OTT films, but he has had some moments in his career where he did manage to create female characters that were different and had a voice. While doing that, he managed to contradict himself and wasn’t ashamed. Today as he celebrates his birthday, let’s look at some of his most amazing films and how women in his universe evolved through them.
KABHI KHUSHI KABHIE GHAM (2001)
Come what may, K3G will always be my guilty pleasure, even if you term it problematic. Karan Johar, as a director, was venturing into the zone for the second time, after Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and you know how the female characters were treated there, though in majority. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum was a mix of both worlds. There was a Kajol who was made to marry at her father’s funeral without her consent (I know they loved and all, but seriously?). And on the other hand, there was Poo (Kareena Kapoor) who ruled everyone with her saas. So the battle was 15 per cent won! Let’s, be real, not that Poo suffices any purpose with all that influence.
KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA (2006)
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna was Karan Johar looking at infidelity with the most glamourized lenses. Now while there were too many problems, Karan, by this point, had realised his women had to have a voice of their own. They cannot be dumb while men dictate their lives. In Rani Mukerji and Preity Zinta he created ladies with distinct voices. There was a silent battle that Rani played throughout, and she was at par with Shah Rukh Khan in the same.
MY NAME IS KHAN (2010)
Ladies & Gentleman, we finally arrive in the year Karan Johar directed the best feature film of his entire career so far. Kajol’s Mandira has to be one of my most favourite Johar female characters. She had layers to her. Bubbly, loving, hardworking, a warrior and Kajol managed to portray them all. Subtract all the negative buzz around the film, this is one of the best for everyone involved.
BOMBAY TALKIES (2013)
If My Name Is Khan was his best feature film, the approximate 30 minutes in Bombay Talkies are were he put his complete heart and soul to create magic. Starring Randeep Hooda, Saqib Salim and Rani Mukerji, the short film in the anthology was about a man living a life of duality, about a boy who had accepted himself, and about a woman who was a medium for the two to connect. Lesser did we know what the filmmaker had for her in-store. Rani in that red saree and the lipstick make one of the best Bollywood climaxes.
AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL (2016)
You would expect me to talk about Alizeh here, but no. While I loved the way Anushka Sharma portrayed her, and the fact she had the authority over her life, but somewhere it did not reach a conclusion. I would rather talk about Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s Saba, a woman as mystic and cryptic as a dream. Men weren’t a need to drive her world. Love was but that didn’t stop her from being the force she in turn becomes. If Karan Johar ever plans a Saba spin-off, I will buy the first ticket.
LUST STORIES (2018)
This must be the boldest the filmmaker ever went. He pitched a woman in a patriarchal family, but gave her the constant itch to fly out of it. Kiara Advani’s character in Lust Stories openly craved for her s*xual satisfaction, and it is a topic somebody needed to address. This one project was such that the commercialisation of this subject actually grabbed more eyeballs and worked for good.
Karan Johar, we are happy you evolved and continue to. We hope that it stays the same. Have a glorious year ahead, and waiting to meet you at the movies soon!